You are here
Safeguarding the future of our space industry
At the suggestion of Secretary of State for Science Policy Elke Sleurs, an interfederal space agency with legal personality is being created. In that Interfederal Space Agency of Belgium, ISAB for short, she is looking to bundle all federal resources and staff relating to space travel. “ISAB ensures the future of our space sector and its accompanying industry. The interfederal character of the agency also makes it possible for us to involve the Belgian federal entities more closely in our space policy. ISAB will become operational in the course of next year already,” Elke Sleurs promises.
The space landscape is undergoing some fundamental changes. For example, applications are becoming ever more important. Just consider the use of satellites for communication, navigation and observation. “Many of the competences in this regard lie with the federal entities,” Elke Sleurs notes. “So our federal structure has to adapt in order to be able to at least engage in structural consultation with those federal entities. This is currently not the case.”
At the same time, the European Union has also gained competences in space travel, which it is carrying out according to the principle of free competition. As a result, the big industrial contracts are often also going to the big players, including the subcontracts that the European Space Agency or ESA has traditionally granted to smaller players like Belgium. On top of that, new global players, such as China and India, have also become active in the space sector.
Change in space policy
“The combination of all these factors requires a very different approach and mentality to the federal space policy. Otherwise we risk losing space contracts,” Elke Sleurs fears. Today, the space sector accounts for some 60 companies in Belgium with an annual turnover of approximately 350 million euros. The sector employs about 2,000 people, including both high-skilled and low-skilled employees. “For every euro we as a government invest in space programmes, no fewer than six euros flow back into the economy in the form of contracts for our industry and scientists,” Elke Sleurs explains. “In relation to our, with our investment efforts of approximately 200 million euros we actually occupy the eighth place in the world rankings.”
Flexibility is the trump card
“The interfederal space agency will ensure more flexibility in various areas and by so doing make it possible to get the most out of our investments in space travel,” Elke Sleurs concludes. For example, the new structure will among other things offer the possibility of receiving financial resources at all levels, from the regional to European. It also offers a multi-year financial framework, which allows management of programmes that are spaced out over several years. “At the federal level we work with annual budgets, a system that is not very compatible with the existing space programmes,” says Elke Sleurs. ISAB will also be able to operate a more flexible personnel policy. For example, it will facilitate both quicker and more flexible recruitment of people and the retention of good profiles. Finally, the new management structure is also simpler and will counter fragmentation.